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Talent Assessment | 1 Min Read

The How-To Guide : Hiring the Right Retail People

The Starbucks CEO couldn’t have surmised the retail industry any better. Imagine dealing with the whims, fancies, emotions and the cynicism of an entire population. That’s what retail industry personnel do, day in, day out. Clearly it’s not anybody’s game. So how can retail recruitment heads figure out who to pick? To answer this, let’s first put to rest the questions that lead up to it.

  1. Desirable qualities for a retail personnel
  2. Relation between personality and performance in retail
  3. Measuring the personality traits


Desirable traits of the right retail guy


Customer centricity - Empathy and Networking

Resolution of a customer’s concern is easily the difference between a lead and a client. Every customer believes he is approaching a business that is waiting, to make his money, theirs. In the face of such cynicism, an empathetic employee with subtle networking skills is your best bet at a successful business.

Sales knowledge

Knowing whom to talk to, how and what to talk about requires an innate capability for interpersonal skills. For your prospect, from the greeting to the closing, your retail employee is the sole representative of your brand. An employee with poor sales knowledge can not only cost you the particular business instance but the lifetime value of a customer.

Process orientation - Proactive and diligent

If sales knowledge is the front end of sales, a robust sales process is what its foundation is built on. Being fine-tuned to the specific needs of a customer, and proactively engaging with them to solve their concerns is the hallmark of a successful sales program. This requires diligence and a result oriented approach to the sales process.

Self Management - Stress tolerance and self-control

Customers are irritable, period. Putting up with their eccentricities without the luxury to wear your heart on your sleeve is not the most pleasant experience. Add to this the guillotine that your employees constantly perceive over their heads in the form of targets. That’s where stress tolerance, patience, time management and self-control come into the picture.


Without doubt, personality decides to a great extent the environments people choose to embrace or avoid, the reactions they evoke from others and the way they influence their environment.

A direct relationship between performance in the service role and dimensions of personality was first hypothesized by Hogan, Hogan and Busch (1984) and they labeled it ‘service orientation’ (adjustment, sociability and agreeableness). It is also notable that Getzels and Guba had attributed role conflict to a lack of fit between personality and job as early as 1954.

More compelling arguments have been pouring in through increased research in the field. It is now widely accepted that personality constructs can be measured with reasonable reliability and that personality measures stay true over time and occasions.

In their book, “winning the service game”, Schneider and Bowen (1995) aptly summarizes the impact of personality on retail industry,

“Happier people, people who are more positive about themselves and their world, are happier at work, and more satisfied workers yield more satisfied customers.” (P121)


Personality assessments or psychometric assessments can be used to gauge a person’s personality. At its most basic, a psychometric test will help you understand the primary motivation for the prospective candidate to work. Specific assessments can also measure niche personality traits of a person such as sales orientation, customer centricity, and etcetera.

Ashroth and Humphrey (1993) showed that emotional labor (display of expected emotion) is indispensable to service roles and that therefore, the service provider must identify personally with his role.

The Big 5 model is one of the most popular frameworks for assessing personality. The five factors measured are – openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and emotional stability. Incidentally, these are the most critical traits that a retail employee should be assessed on. These situation based tests captures a candidate’s preference of reaction amongst multiple options. Finding the psychological inclination apart, psychometric tests can also single out candidates who fake answers by identifying patterns in the preferences marked. For instance, a person who consciously picks preferences that will be viewed favorably by others will be flagged as “socially desirable.”


Research has amply shown how personality traits are intertwined with performance in the retail domain. In every way, potential for discontent is much more pronounced in today’s world given the options we have – for the customer there are multiple products to choose from and for the employees there are multiple firms to evaluate working for. Quite simply, it’s a jagged jigsaw puzzle with many pieces. As the decision makers picking out the pieces, recruiters in the retail industry have to increasingly be wary of a misfit in their organization. Run your pieces through a psychometric test and make sure you settle only for the right ones.



–          Getzels, J. W. and E. G. Guba. 1954. “Role, Role Conflict and Effectiveness.”American Sociological Review 19:164–175.

–          Schneider, Benjamin and David E. Bowen. 1985. “Employee and Customer Perceptions of Service in Banks: Replication and Extension.”Journal of Applied Psychology 70 (3): 423–433

–          Hogan, Joyce and Robert Hogan. 1992.Hogan Personality Instrument: Validation Manual. Tulsa, OK: Hogan Assessment Systems.

–          Ashforth, Blake E. and Ronald H. Humphrey. 1993. “Emotional Labor in Service Roles: The Influence of Identify.”Academy of Management Review18(1):88–115.

Originally published April 2 2018, Updated June 16 2020


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